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Originally published Friday, March 4, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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On a budget in NYC? These hotels go beyond basic

Trying to pin down a hotel clerk in this town is like trying to stick a fly to a wall. The conversation at the counter of the W Court Hotel...

Detroit Free Press

NEW YORK — Trying to pin down a hotel clerk in this town is like trying to stick a fly to a wall.

The conversation at the counter of the W Court Hotel on East 39th Street went this way:

Me: "What are your rates?"

Clerk: "It depends."

Me: "On what?"

Clerk: "On occupancy."

Me: "Do you have a rate sheet?"

Clerk: "No."

Me: "Are you a boutique hotel?"

Clerk: "No. We consider ourselves a style hotel."

Second clerk: "But some would consider us a boutique hotel."


At the W, if you are lucky or score a Web deal, you might get a room for $219 a night. That is pretty good for a boutique hotel, the sort of place where the snob appeal is larger than the closets.

The scene above shows exactly why tourists to New York are desperate. We want lodging that is moderately priced but also decent, spacious and well-located. We want a friendly room. Something big enough to breathe in. Maybe with a kitchen. Definitely something that doesn't make you feel like you're being ripped off.

Such rooms exist. All are away from the Times Square area, which for all its thrill can be too loud and bright for sleeping. All are in areas of the city that are walkable and charming. None are big chain hotels. All have their lowest rates right now — through March 31. During the second weekend of February, one of the cheapest times to visit, all were available for under $200 a night.

That is a good price in a town where $350 to $1,000 a night isn't unusual.

A few things to remember: January through March is low season in the city. Some good deals can be found in April and August. The highest prices are during major convention dates in spring and fall, the New York Marathon weekend (Nov. 6) and New Year's Eve. Shop around for the best deal. Most rates are subject to a 13.625 percent sales tax and $2 per room daily hotel tax.

Here, then, are our NYC hotel picks:

Shelburne Murray Hill — This suite hotel has huge bedrooms and kitchenettes that make you feel like you're staying in an apartment. All rooms have new bedding. Located in the Murray Hill section at Lexington Avenue and 37th Street, this slightly old-fashioned hotel caters to families and business people. Likely one of the best deals in the city. A one-bedroom suite was $189 a night on a February weekend. 303 Lexington Ave., 212-689-5200; it is part of the Affinia Group of nine nice all-suite hotels in New York City. Check for weekend specials or call 866-233-4641.

Murray Hill East Suites — The more modest cousin to the Shelburne, it's in an excellent location on East 39th between Third and Lexington.

The slightly run-down lobby does not reveal the joy the spacious and clean apartment-like studios and suites will give visitors. All have kitchens, slightly dated furniture and comfortable beds. Ideal for families or groups of friends. I got a one-bedroom suite at the weekend rate of $166 a night through 149 East 39th Street, 212-661-2100, no Web site.

Hotel Beacon — On the busy Upper West Side at Broadway and 75th, this popular suite hotel has 240 generous rooms, all with kitchenettes. It may be slightly noisy due to its being close to the 72nd Street subway stop and entertainment venues. Ask about weekend deals. Through March 31, a double room is $165 a night. 2130 Broadway, 800-572-4969,

Milburn Hotel — Also in the heart of the Upper West Side at 76th street west of Broadway. Also a suite hotel with kitchenettes. 120 rooms, caters to families. Quiet because it's on a side street, only a block from the action. A one-bedroom suite with kitchenette was $189 on a February weekend. 242 W. 76th Street, 212-362-1006,

The Larchmont — In Greenwich Village on 27th Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues, this small hotel is tucked away on a residential street, a four-block walk from the nearest subway. It's small, with a European feel, like you're staying at someone's house. You share a bathroom with other guests, but a queen room is just $109 per night through March 31. 27 W. 11th St., 212-989-9333,

The Excelsior Hotel — This spacious old hotel at 81st Street and Central Park West is on a beautiful street across from the American Museum of Natural History and Central Park and across the park from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Subway stop nearby. A standard queen room was $159 on a February weekend. 45 W. 81st Street, 212-368-4575, It's also part of the Big Apple group; deals at

Jolly Hotel Madison Towers — This Italian-owned hotel at Madison Avenue and 38th Street in Murray Hill is a former apartment complex with a rather ornate marble floor and a gilt European feel. Hotel is being gradually renovated. February weekend rate for a standard queen room was $179 a night. 212-802-0600,

Roger Williams Hotel — In a convenient location at Madison and 31st Street near the Empire State Building, this hotel just finished undergoing extensive remodeling. All rooms have new furnishings and electronics. The lobby sets the tone with bright reds and contemporary atrium space. On a February weekend, a room with a queen bed was $180 a night. Part of the Oceana Hotel group. 131 Madison Ave., 212-448-7000,

The New York W Court Hotel mentioned at the top of this story came in at $219 a night, over our $200 a night limit. But if you're interested, the hotel features the Wetbar lounge, where cool New Yorkers hang out, and the Icon restaurant, where cool New Yorkers eat. It is at 130 E. 39th Street, New York, 212-685-1100,

To keep up on what hotels are new and remodeled in New York, see and search for "new hotel". Take NYC hotel reviews posted on with a grain of salt.

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